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 Post subject: Dealing with a bully
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:44 am 
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We're having real difficulty dealing with a rat who keeps bullying one of her cage mates and we need some advice on how to stop her doing it. The bully, Katara, keeps going for the same victim, Jean-Luc (a neutered boy), and keeps biting his tail. She's left quite a few nasty marks over the months, often breaking the skin and making him bleed. This morning we found she'd really taken a chunk out of his tail.

We did the carrier method when we first introduced the two boys (as young adults) to our colony of 5 girls. At first, things seemed to be basically OK, but this biting behaviour started not long after we had successfully (we thought) finished the carrier method. We tried doing the carrier method again, and again we found things were fine for the first couple of days afterwards, and then she started bullying him again. The only respite was when we took them to a different house for a week, at which point Jean-Luc suddenly became much more dominant and put her in her place repeatedly. He went back to being submissive and bullied a few days after getting home. He gets on fine with the rest of the colony, though when Katara is around he'll frequently retreat to the corner of the cage on his own. When she's not about (their play space is huge) he'll interact with the others like a properly integrated member of the colony.

So what do we do? Things we are considering:

1: Putting Katara the bully in a separate cage and rotating the female rats as company for her.
2: Giving Katara to a friend for three weeks and then trying to re-introduce her as a new rat once the colony has stabilised without her.
3: Getting some baby rats for the colony in the hope that this might calm Katara down (we have found this sort of behavioural change before in other rats)
4: Getting Katara spayed.
5: Getting Katara an e-collar to stop her biting for a week to see if it breaks the behavioural pattern
6: Putting her in a separate cage for a few days while we thoroughly scrub the cage and their play room, and move the furniture around so it feels like a new environment.

Any advice gratefully received!


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with a bully
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:36 pm 
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How old is Katara, and what's her background (breeder, pet shop, rescue)? If you have a vet you trust with rat surgery, I'd personally be inclined to try spaying first, and see if that helps. Spaying has a number of health benefits (significantly reduced likelihood of mammary and pituitary tumours, completely eliminates the possibility of uterine infections), so if a rat also has behavioural issues that might be hormonal, I'd say that the benefits definitely outweigh the risks at that point.

I don't think option 5 would work, since rats apparently are quite good at getting out of collars. And I'm not sure how safe option 3 would be, if Katara decides she doesn't like the look of the new babies and decides to bully them too.

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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with a bully
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:16 pm 
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Thanks for your reply! She's from a breeder we adore - all our rats are from the same beeeder. We also have one of her sisters, who is one of the nicest rats we know. We are considering spaying, but we've been rather put off it because we had one of our other rats spayed and she lost most of her hair and got really bad dry skin as a result. Maybe we had a bad experience but to us it seemed really dramatic.


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with a bully
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:17 pm 
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Oh, and Katara is about a year old.


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with a bully
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 5:52 pm 
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gracierocket wrote:
Thanks for your reply! She's from a breeder we adore - all our rats are from the same beeeder. We also have one of her sisters, who is one of the nicest rats we know. We are considering spaying, but we've been rather put off it because we had one of our other rats spayed and she lost most of her hair and got really bad dry skin as a result. Maybe we had a bad experience but to us it seemed really dramatic.


In that case I'd speak to her breeder first, if you haven't already. They may have a better idea of what strategies are most likely to work, and in any case they should be interested to know that a rat they've bred is being aggressive.

I've not heard of hair loss and dry skin being a complication of spaying. Is that a thing anyone else has experienced? I'm guessing it's either a rare complication, or in that case it was unrelated to the spay.

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Fondly remembering: Falere the contrary NLA36, Mirala the best and finest NLA36, Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with a bully
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:16 pm 
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Good idea, I'll talk to the breeder. I think the dry skin was a result of the hair loss, and according to the vet, hair loss can be linked to hormonal changes after spaying. I imagine it's very rare though, as I hadn't come across it either.


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